Day by Day #41: A Year Of Thoughts

Last year for my birthday, my older brother gave me a commonplace book. I had owned one before, if you consider a stack of post-it notes a commonplace.

After a year, my commonplace went from being nice and shiny (with wonderfully practical magnet clasps) to being bent, torn, and without any clasps.

After a year, it’s completely full. So, I thought I’d share some of the things I wrote:

  • Play Peter Gabriel at your funeral.
  • Dance to Sunset by Kate Bush and Take the Long Way Home by Supertramp.
  • If it doesn’t help you glorify God and enjoy Him, don’t do it.
  • I can hear that you’re visibly upset.
  • Find a wife.
  • Being creative is the skill of locating things that have already been stated and putting them together.
  • Listen, but most of all, be interested.
  • “Friendship lasts longest when both feel they have a slight advantage over the other.” -Benjamin Franklin?
  • Woes unite foes.
  • An unhappy man’s cart is easy to tumble.
  • Isaiah 40:29-31
  • “Only the learned read old books and we have now so dealt with the learned that they are of all the men the least likely to acquire wisdom by doing so…When a learned man is present with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true…To regard the ancient author as a possible source of knowledge…would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded.” -Screwtape Letters
  • People are always making assumptions.
  • What is the point of speaking if your words aren’t completely earnest?
  • “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” -G.K. Chesterton
  • Life is a bloody affair.
  • “I believe in God like I believe in the sun. I not only see it, but by it, I see everything else.” -C.S. Lewis
  • If a man satisfies the pleasures of the flesh, they increase in necessity and decrease in satisfaction. If a man satisfies the pleasures of the spirit, they increase his strength and decrease any desires for the pleasures of the flesh.
  • “If one give an answer before He hears, it is His folly and shame.” -Proverbs 18:13
  • Don’t analyze something instead of asking if it’s true, ask if it’s true and then analyze why it was stated.
  • The point of the day is to so exhaust yourself that rest is both necessary and enjoyable.
  • Passages of the Bible can be put to a melody, so they are easier to memorize.
  • It could be no less than twice as perfect.
  • Perform social experiments. For example, see the common reaction people have if you shake hands with your left hand, instead of your right.
  • Thoughts are valuable. Keep them and trade them in for something more valuable later.
  • “When we are not engaged in thinking some definite problem, we spend about 95% of our time thinking about ourselves.” -Dale Carnegie
  • Truth is a bitter cup to drink from.
  • “Put all of your eggs in one basket and watch the basket closely.” -Dale Carnegie
  • “If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” -Henry Ford
  • The one that separates successful and unsuccessful is self-control.
  • The moon is flourescently illuminated in a blue sky with pink and orange clouds behind it. It’s exceedingly beautiful, but you probably won’t remember what it looks like. -11.3.11
  • Say “thank you” to your wife for being a home-maker, because she will never hear that. Also help her fold the laundry when it’s midnight. She will appreciate it.
  • Everyone is unique in the same way.
  • Once upon a time, King Melannous lived his entire life inside the castle. One day, he decided to go outside and immediately got a sunburn.
  • Life gets very boring when you attempt to adhere to an ambiguous set of laws set by yourself that tell you, “You cannot ask the woman at the check-out how her day has been going and if she would like a piece of candy.”
  • A hero is born when he’s made.
  • The fall is killing the leaves just like it killed us.
  • The sum of the matter is this: do not race to the grave. Enjoy every moment you have. When faced with temptation, resist it. It is better to live for God than to live for self. Find love and stick close to it. Love is the only thing that is holding reality together. When trials come, cry and find someone to cry with, but do not ruin your joy. Embrace change, knowing everything is in a constant state of motion. Be sanctified through life, love, and death.
  • Suspending judgment on something is limiting. For example, saying that someone has a particular attribute causes you to think about that attribute when talking to that person from then on.
  • “No one needs instruction more than the man who thinks he needs none.” -Robert Capon
  • The world would be a sad place if everyone wanted to make a name for themselves.
  • The heroes and wise sages of this generation – the intellectuals, the scholars, the elders – are all entertainers.
  • The world does not begin when you are born.
  • You’ve been in existence – in one form or another – since the beginning of time.
  • You can tell me, as long as you keep it to yourself.
  • Unforgiven wounds last forever. It is better to apologize ten years later than to not apologize at all.
  • Mere good intentions are destroyed by reality.
  • If I were to take a trip into your mind, would I be able to get back?
  • “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” -Voltaire
  • When you are a parent, do not discipline with anger. There is never a good reason in any relationship to get angry.
  • “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” -Shakespeare
  • If Christ could call us, couldn’t He keep us?
  • The sixth love language is sarcasm.
  • If you ever have enough money, rebuild the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
  • Work toward the future and look toward the past.
  • We might wait for death, but death doesn’t wait for us.
  • “People will not look forward to a posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.” -Edmund Burke
  • There is only darkness to a blind person.
  • Every person is important, no matter how small a role they play.
  • Suspended In Gaffa is an absolutely beautiful and true song. Beauty lies on the other side. If you see something beautiful, it always disappears behind a corner.
  • Life is too short to make relative comfort a goal.
  • There are no stars to reach for if you’re living in the city.
  • Hey you, you know that list of little, quick things that is called “to-do”? What if you actually just spent a day and did those things?
  • “It is much easier to be critical than correct.” -Ben Disraeli
  • “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” -Billy Wilder
  • The answer is always somewhere in the middle.
  • If every person alive in the world were simply well-rounded, nothing would get done.
  • Sometimes you get so tired, you don’t sleep.
  • Oodoob.
  • “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
  • Feed someone raw potatoes as “delicious apples” for April Fool’s Day.
  • “My pleasure is all mine.” -Grace
  • Me: Annie Dillard’s prose as so poetic.
    Grace: What about her cons?
  • Buy a few acres and plant a tree for each child. It will eventually become a forest.
  • Own a lot of old clocks.
  • When companies make products, it would be interesting if the products came along with manuals that describe how the product works, why it was made, etc.
  • Words are powerful.
  • Truth is worth repeating.
  • Everything is malleable, except God.
  • There should be banana flavored soda.
  • An artist is someone who tries to express a very human feeling in the most heavenly way.
  • Good art is something you can spend hours with.
  • The medium changes, but the message stays the same.
  • “Each generation thinks it fights new battles, but the battles are the same. Only the people are different.” -David Malter
  • They should have commercials for marriage.
  • Chocolate milk and potato chips would be gross together.
  • If someone possesses an unpleasant drive, don’t shut it down, but redirect it.
  • Laughter is the deepest expression of human joy.
  • People should wear suits more often.

-I skipped quite a few of my entries, but that is mostly because I couldn’t read my handwriting.

Day by Day #40: God Is a Thief

The creative process is schizophrenic, over-indulgent, and illusive. For me, the most common place I enjoy creating is writing. About a week ago, I was writing like a crazy man. This week? I struggle to get a few words out.

I wonder what the brain looks like when someone is creating. I’m sure some scientist has seen it and could point out to me what is going on. But, when I’m in a moment of intense creativity and inspiration, it doesn’t seem to be very controlled or scientific. It feels like a chaotic flurry of words and ideas and thoughts that somehow find their place on the page. And, if I look at myself and the situation objectively, I get thrown off balance and wind up off track. Word to the wise: when creating, don’t think about yourself. It’s dangerously halting.

It’s nearly impossible to force creating something. You can do it, of course, but the product is rarely valuable. Some of my most favorite things that I have created took the least time and the least difficulty. They simply came out. It sometimes feels like vomiting your thoughts onto the page. And it feels good. When you force creativity it feels more like there’s a cat in your stomach that is reluctant to go. And that cat is very angry.

They say that the best artists are thieves. I cannot believe how true that is. For example, if you research the influences of one of your favorite artists, you will begin to see those influences in his music. It’s not all that surprising that the best artists are thieves, though. After all, the only fodder we can use to create things are our own experiences; our own knowledge. And if some of our most prized experiences come from our favorite artists, then…of course we’re going to take their ideas!

Oh come on, it’s not like it’s their ideas, anyway. They’re only their ideas, because that’s the first place you heard about them. There’s nothing new under the sun. Pink Floyd didn’t invent darkness, just like Muddy Waters didn’t invent women and C.S. Lewis didn’t invent God. Okay, okay, I’m being a bit facetious.

But I’m really not. You can take any idea – any idea at all – no matter how particular and personal it might have been to an artist. If you take it and try to explain it using your own words and textures, it will be a product that is wholly different. We simply can’t help implanting our own worldviews onto what we create. If I were to take one of the surrahs of the Quran and try and explore the same themes it explores it would undoubtedly not be the same. While an artist initially gets “inspired” by another artist, the finished products are separate entities. Getting “inspired” is only the beginning, or the doorway, of the creative process.

I think the human experience is very similar to ideas and artists. There is a basic template to life; we are born, we grow up, we seek understanding, we build, we fear, we look back, we die. The template I just layed out might not be exact, but you get the point. We all have to go through the same stages. But, we live these stages out completely different from one another. We can’t help it. Our environment beckons us to do so. Our life is an idea that has been around since the beginning of time – an idea rooted in something outside of time – and we each live it out differently.

While, I guess, it’s true that we initially “steal” an idea from another artist, it’s not true that our lives  are any less stolen.

Our lives are completely unwarranted. In a sense, we have cheated death a million times over. We have pulled ourselves up from the ground, only to temporarily beat the odds against gravity. Our lives are a little hiccup. And our lives are completely based on an incalculable amount of miracles. We have beaten the odds and have stolen our lives like the gambler who gets lucky.

But God looks down at the little creatures that meander about earth and laughs uproariously. Yes, our lives are the result of someone cheating death. Our lives are the result of grace cheating the odds. We have been stolen. We’re not the ones that have pulled ourselves up from the ground. We were pulled up. We have been fearlessly and helplessly stolen.

A lot of people might get finicky when God is labelled as a thief. But isn’t He? Christ didn’t die on the cross so we could be asked politely if we wanted to live. He died on the cross – and resurrected – so that we could be stolen from death. And when God cursed Adam and Eve with death, why didn’t He just kill them right then? Wouldn’t that have been the obvious thing to do? No, He let them live just a little longer, giving death what it craved later and more passingly.

People say that creation was perfectly ordered by God. I object. Creation was a flurry of activity, of fierce anticipation and love, of chaotic passion. It was over-indulgent, it was illusive. It was schizophrenic. But somehow, someway, it was humanity that ended up on the page.

When I create, I struggle to stay balanced in my mind. I struggle to keep everything straight, even though I know that what I am creating is coming out making sense. But I can falter and fail. If someone asks me to do something in the midst of the tornado, I freak out and can’t go back. I end up sounding and feeling like Christian Bale getting rudely interrupted on set. My failure shines through in my creations.

But God didn’t need any balance. He went all out. And He knew exactly what He was doing. He was looking at it all and said that it was very good. And, my, what a creation He has made, despite the odds. God’s creation was stolen from death.

And what He stole bears His unmistakable mark of grace.